Ian Burrell: Max Mosley takes his crusade against invasion of privacy to France

Viewpoint: Only 3,000 copies of the edition of the News of the World in question were distributed in France and just 1,500 of those were sold

Share
Related Topics

We face the prospect tomorrow of a newspaper which no longer exists being responsible for damages in a country where it was not printed and where they speak a different language to the one in which the article complained of was published. Not only that, the award could be higher than that given when the same matter was considered in a British court in 2008.

Max Mosley's legal battle with Rupert Murdoch's News Group Newspapers over the News of the World's publication of intimate details of his participation in a sado-masochistic orgy has been extraordinary in many ways. Quite apart from the revelations themselves, Mosley broke a record for privacy damages when the High Court awarded him £60,000. After that verdict, the paper's editor Colin Myler stood outside the court and claimed: "Our press is less free today."

But Max wasn't done. Far from being shy about the exposure of his sexual shenanigans, Mosley went out on the public speaking circuit, entertaining crowds with his conjecture on the sex lives of prominent editors. He took his case to the European Court of Justice in a failed attempt to compel journalists to reveal their stories to their subjects prior to publication.

And still he was not done. Having been president of the Paris-headquartered Federation International de l'Automobile at the time of the Sunday tabloids lurid revelations, Mosley who studied law at Gray's Inn and is a qualified barrister, realised he had a right to sue Murdoch's company in France as well. On Tuesday, the Palais de Justice will return its verdict – probably in Mosley's favour.

So far the court has heard the News of the World described as "gutter press" (Mosley's lawyer) and as one of the "guard dogs of British democracy" (News Group's lawyer). Mosley is thought to be seeking €100,000 from both the publisher and the reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who has been charged with violating privacy laws and faces a maximum punishment of a year in prison and a £45,000 fine. "I guess it would be the icing on the cake if he could get a criminal conviction," says Nick King, a reputation management specialist at Sheridans.

The orgy privacy case has unfolded in parallel with the phone-hacking scandal, which caused the paper's closure in July. Thurlbeck, who has not attended the French hearing, is one of the former members of the News of the World staff arrested in the police inquiry.

What will the French court decide? "I would be surprised if he gets big damages, I would expect them to take into account the award in the UK," says Rod Dadak, a defamation specialist at Lewis Silkin, who expects Mosley to win his case. But even if the former Formula 1 boss fails to obtain a major award, he will have succeeded in raising awareness of the possibility of bringing a privacy action in France. "It will encourage other people to see that as a route to get back at the newspaper or publication in question," says Robin Shaw of Davenport Lyons.

 

Only 3,000 copies of the edition of the News of the World in question were distributed in France and just 1,500 of those were sold. Padraig Reidy, of the freedom of speech group Index on Censorship, suspects Mosley's motives. "While he may feel aggrieved, it seems he is trying to establish a rule that no newspaper in Europe should be allowed to report on the private lives of public figures."

In another development two weeks ago, litigants were given another stick with which to beat the British press when the European Court of Justice gave actor Olivier Martinez, the right to sue the Sunday Mirror in the French courts over an article published on the Internet about his relationship with Kylie Minogue.

Tomorrow it is Max Mosley who has the whip hand over his former tabloids tormentors.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'